Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition flyer in Gillingham South

I felt it only fair that after I reviewed the leaflet of the Independents and LibDems I should cast equal light on Jacqui Berry's election pamphlet which was delivered yesterday.

I am surprised as to how impressed I am with Ms Berry's proposition. From her photograph I would say she is quite young and from the text she is very passionate, possibly from personal experience about cuts.
She is very direct and to the point and I find myself agreeing with her on many of her points and I admire her passion.

I worry about the way cuts are being carried out, and job losses should be kept to an absolute minimum. I also feel massive empathy that the bankers and big business (and the rich) should make more of a donation towards the damage that has been caused and not the working classes who already struggle with day to day costs of living.

I also agree that a massive job creation scheme is necessary and in my opinion I think we should go back to constructing industries, ships etc.

I also worry about pensions... People of my Grandfather's generation are in a good situation but the current generation, myself included, could find themselves in serious problems when they are in their formative years and I agree that the pension system needs to be looked at seriously,

I especially agree with her belief in renationalising the railways and I'm sure many of my fellow commuters will agree too! The companies that run it do not care how they treat us as they hold a monopoly.

My only problem is that unfortunately I think we need to make cuts over the next few years. The Debt is high but the large deficit is making it bigger at a scary rate and it needs to be fixed now, this parliament. We cannot hand a massive spiraling  debt to our Children. The projects, such as renationalising the railways and banks as well as housing projects are amazing and I agree that they are the way forward but we don't have the money to do it at the moment.

But Thank you  Ms Berry. I sincerely admire your flier and passion! You've also made me think, something which is always a good thing and something a candidate should do and next time I run (not a paperless as I am this time) I hope I can do the same.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

"Independent News" hits my door step and my blog.

The other day I found the Gillingham South Independent News thrust through my letter box. As an open minded liberal I read it to see what they were standing for in the Council election and see if they had any valid points that may make me change my vote.

I was moved to write a short blog about some of these issues...

One of the issues was Gillingham Station's refit, an issue I mentioned here;(

The News had this to say:

Southeastern trains charge some of the highest fares in the country, yet have a shocking record for running late trains.
So although the refurbishment of the station will make travelling by train a better experience and improve the appearance of the area, your local Independents have to wonder whether this is money well spent.

Commuters tell us they would rather pay lower fares and get to work on time than see their taxes and fares spent on a "Makeover" of the station. After all, it could soon get vandalised and covered in graffiti upon completion.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem and Conservative promises to cut rail fares have been broken and fares have continued to rise. On 5th May, residents can send the "Con-dems" a message that enough is enough!

I agree that the big issue for commuters is the fare rise and yes I know a new front to the station won't improve that but it will help the traffic problems and congestion that has been problematic for years.
I also agree with the Independents on their stance on train fare, and regular readers will know I have written and received a response from Rehman Chisthi MP for Gillingham and Rainham on the matter.  BUT is it the job of the local council to get involved in this?
After all two of the three Medway MP's have signed up to the KM campaign, and are activly lobbying parliament but with little success. My letter to Mr Chisthi MP was passed to the minister for transport and she has said nothing can be done. (I will publish her letter shortly.) As all of these people are Conservatives I cannot see how the Lib Dems are implicated.
As for Vandalism... IOt is a valid point BUT did the people of London think; "Lets not rebuild after the Blitz- after all we may have Nuclear war soon."? If we constantly fear vandalism then there will never be improvements.
It is my opinion that they are jumping on a bandwagon, this is an important issue but not one for the local council but one that will definitely attract them votes for nothing.

Also a brief aside... On Vandalism and graffiti within Medway. This is a big problem and endemic of urban areas. In fact just last week I noted that a year or so after the refurbishment of the ROchester rail bridge it already had graffiti.
I am deeply saddened by the actions of "Youths" in Woodland's cemetery but I fear there is little the Police can do especially with their numbers cut and the public's need for them to deal with "Real" crime such as muggings, burglaries etc... There is also a real need for Policing of "Antisocial" behaviour on a Saturday and Friday nights in the town centres, dealing with the drunk and disorderly.
Yes I think that law and order should be enforced but the Police need to prioritise as best they can, with the best will in the world they cannot be everywhere. What needs to be done is more education in schools, activities for youth to do so as to cut down boredom, community service to clean up the mess that they make.
I don't want to be pessimistic but locking and "securing" sites such as the graveyard are not enough. Wall's can be climbed, fences cut... It just becomes more of a challenge and thus more interesting.

Finally on Potholes and rubbish. Yes there are potholes and a lot of the streets are in need of resurfacing, the local LibDems in Gillingham South ward have already worked to do this. Although interetingly the one they point out at the end of "Franklin Road." and have photographed has already been filled. They have also moved to deal with graffiti but obviously if its on private property it is difficult to get removed. Also the dramatic picture of Dan Hilder stood by an overflowing bin by Aldi. Yes it is often overflowing but what you can't see is that just behind the photographer is another bin so the council have actioned that concern. Where I live there are plenty of bins, even in Rookery fields but yet every day there is rubbish across the floor. Who is to blame? The people, not the council so it all boils down to education again.

So to wrap up. The Independents leaflet is compelling but it doesn't say anything that the Lib Dems haven't and the Lib Dems have a proven record of solving these problems so why should I bring in another group of councillors to do the job that is already being done?
Also they seem to play to obvious concerns of the people and point out a lot of problems that need addressing but don't give any solutions which is what is needed.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Local elections part II and why I'm voting Liberal Democrat.

As the local elections loom ever closer more and more people are (or at least should be) considering whom they will vote for. This is a bit of a difficult proposition as many of the voting public wonder why bother? Surely Politicians are all the same? It doesn't matter who gets in...
This is a bit of a sweeping statement that certainly isn't true... Not all politicians are the same, they aren't after your money and full of lies and deceit and with the local elections it is even more important for you to vote as the council is the governing body in charge of YOUR services such as refuse collection, roads, parks, aids towards education, NHS, policing, the state of YOUR town/city. This is the one you should be paying most attention to and voting in.

More importantly with the Localism act being debated in parliament and the cuts being deferred to the Local authorities the councils are actually the ones with all the power. The government has put the burden on the local authorities to make cuts in their boroughs, this means that the government does not wield the axe mercilessly and indiscriminately but asking the local authorities to be grown up and decide what is best in their constiteunts' (that's you) best interests. In Medway the council have cut around 200 jobs so far which isn't too bad compared with others. According to figures mentioned by Nick Clegg in his speech on the 13th March Sheffield council has had to make cuts of 8% and have cut a similar amount of jobs where as Manchester, suffering a similar 8% cut has axed 2000 jobs. Sheffield has also ring fenced sure start centres, other councils have saved as many public libraries as is possible. Unfortunately I predict Sheffield council will be voted out and Manchester returned to power. Why? Because Sheffield is a Liberal Democrat council and Manchester is a Labour council.

Let us not drag national politics into local issues at this stage. So you don't like Clegg or Cameron? You think the cuts are unfair? Disagree with war in Libya? NHS reforms to rushed? Tuition fees rise vex you? Well what have Medway council got to do with any of that?
Lets be honest with each other... I'm not happy about all of the cuts. I think the NHS is in need of reform but I think it should be well thought out but I want my rubbish taken away, I want parks my daughter can play in and sure start for her so that she can have the best possible start in the world and so I need to look at what the local politicians are doing first until May 6h... then I can go back to the bigger picture.

Though if we are going to drag in national government and policy I'm just going to say a couple of points...

Voting in Labour or the Conservatives will not oust Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister, nor him as an MP. If you vote councillors who have done a good job representing you and stopping the cuts and vote in another party you could be cutting your nose to spite your face.

6000 Medway residents no longer have to pay Income tax and a total of 102,000 will find themselves in better tax based circumstances.

The pupil premium means school children from poorer backgrounds get a massive boost to their education funds.

Which party is responsible for this?

Liberal Democrats.

So why am I going to vote Libdem again?

Clearly you are voting out of party loyalty.

Well if I can just say even that would not keep me voting for a candidate I thought was lazy or did nothing to represent my needs. I am, as a lot of my friends know, fairly mercenary about some things and my family is one of those things I care more about. I am not writing this as a Liberal Democrat, nor am I on the campaign team and this is not an official statement rather as a member of the Medway citizenary voicing their opinion.

Onto the issues. Libdem propositions such as reintroduction of free swimming for children and the elderly, parking permit charges to be frozen, more allotments and even the council tax freeze and freedom passes for 11-18 year olds have now made it into the council budget. The people of Medway will definetly benefit from these measures.

So surely these measures are supported by the other parties?

Nope... Labour and the indpendents voted against them.

Labour and the Tories also voted to keep extra allowances for councillors whilst everyone else had to take a pay freeze.

Party politics to one side all I can say is heh? Why should anyone keep their bonuses whilst everyone else gets pay freezes? That's not fair.

Lets take a step further into the microcosm... Gillingham South ward, where I live and the ward represented by councillors Stephen and Sheila Kearney and Geoff Juby and encompasses the War memorial up to medway hospital, across to Nelson road and splits around Gillingham park and up to woodlands Avenue, quite a sizable chunk of town. So what have they done to deserve my vote?

Well they've certainly been busy improving where I live! Fresh trees to be planted in Gillingham high street, the clock repaired and telling the correct time, a fresh salt bin on Imperial road, campaign for graffiti removal, grass bank repairs at the hospital, new benches, road resurfacing (including mine - Sturdee Avenue which was in dire need of repair!) campaigning for better parking at the hospital (when my grandmother was in hospital my family found it very difficult to park and visit 4 years ago so any improvement is welcomed!) supporting Watling ward councillors to improve Gillingham park (somewhere all of us in this part of the ward visit.) fresh playing equipment at Balmoral gardens, working with Southeastern trains to improve Gillingham Station and the road approach (any one who has tried to pick some one up at the station will know that it is not currently well laid out) and improvements to Rookery fields play area (which is where I take my daughter to the swings). Wow... that's quite a bit. It's also a proven record that has benefited us the residents of Gillingham South.

So what are they going to do for us in the future? Well according to Focus they're going to fight for a fair share of council money for the ward, make sure road repairs continue, combat the use of the controversial CCTV car as a "cash cow" for the council and use it for its proper use, catching out unsafe parking as well as more of the same achievements as the ones they've already done including continuing to use the Ward improvement funds for projects like playgroups, primary schools, church groups, asthma charity and a volunteer hospital radio they've already helped. These are the same funds the Independents wanted to scrap!

Well that sounds very good... So they've done a lot of good for my community and are going to continue to do so? Definitely have my vote, and if you live in Gillingham south I urge you, not as a Liberal Democrat but as a concerned citizen and someone who wants to improve their community, to vote for Kearney, Juby and Kearney on 5th May and return a Libdem ward.

I think the election Focus says it best:

This is a local election about local issues - Cameron doesn't empty your bins nor does Clegg sweep your streets and Milliband doesn't fix your lights.

Friday, 15 April 2011

David Cameron vs. Doctor Vince

Immigration is a tough subject to talk about and is a very divisive subject between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it was never a subject that we could agree on whole heartedly. However is this "THE" split that many political pundits have been predicting since last May? Is this just another example of Doctor Vince putting his foot in it and embarrassing the party? Or is it a just criticism of a policy by a senior LibDem of the Conservative leader during an election?

Firstly I should talk about the speech itself. (this can be found at: ) David Cameron's words appeal not only to the right, and it should be borne in mind that it was to Conservative party activists, but also to the wider British public. It is easy to label those who dislike immigration and foreign groups coming into Britain as racist and put them in the same box as the BNP  but it is a genuine concern for a large percentage of the British populous. Even 78% of Libdems stated in a YouGov poll that they wanted a lower level. ( ) David Cameron does raise some valid points and outlines policy that sounds decisive, with moves to close loop holes, tackle problems and stop people using the system to their advantage. He talks in sweeping terms of those who have snuck into the country, or were applying bogusly. Immigration was definitely one of the major problems of the last government and the populous at large were becoming increasingly angry at the situation and I dare say that votes were lost to the BNP because they were the only party that wanted to talk about the "British born" who were being castigated. As Mr Cameron pointed out, many groups form tight communities within urban areas that do not necessarily integrate with the current society. After all as Linda Colley points out in her book "Britons" the British have always defined themselves by what they are not and it is easy to define yourself against another ethnic group that lives in your area. They don't speak English, they aren't Christian, they aren't one of us. But isn't this the one of the key parts of the "melting pot"? Take the US for example, the different societies have had trouble integrating at first but have eventually gelled. Also surely different groups, different perspectives are good for a better democracy? Different approaches and points of view make society so much more diverse.

One of Cameron's assertions is that migrants are doing jobs that British born do not want to do. To a degree this may be true. Last June during a budget special on Channel 4 news a lady on the panel said she had been looking for work for seven years and wanted to work. Yet she had no applied for MacDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc...
Now I've served my 3 years at MacDonald's, my wife served six and my friend Caz served ten. I can assure you... It's not the best job in the world, in fact it is is awful but it is a job but it pays. I can say that many of us were searching for real jobs and proper careers all the time that we were working there but we stayed because we needed to pay the rent and didn't dream about the dole, however as we worked in a university town a lot of students felt they were "too good" to work in a retail/fast food jobs also despite the high number of "British born" who are unemployed there is a fresh bout of foreign migrants willing to take the jobs. In my current job we have a contract cleaners and not one of them is British born. Cameron feels people would rather sit on the dole than do service industry jobs. Maybe. But then again should people do a job they despise just so that they have work? Why not be able to chose and do jobs that they want to do rather than what they have to do?

Ultimately the speech wasn't as bad as it could have been. David Cameron speaks in general terms that are not racist or prejudice but actually voiced concerns that were held by the majority of the populous. Was he right to talk about these issues? Yes. It was a major concern of the electorate and it is a problem that requires the coalition to address and correct. As a general, sweeping term it is OK but I think that the government will have to look at how it approaches the problems before blazing into something and making a royal cock up.

So was Doctor Vince right to criticise David Cameron? Yes. A common criticism of the LibDems in coalition is that we are not vocal enough in our criticism of Conservative policy but then when a senior Liberal says that they disagree they are accused of fueling a split. It is worth noting that Nick Clegg was also accused of fueling a split by agreeing with Norman Lamb on NHS reform. The problem is that if they agreed with their coalition partners they would be labelled as sell outs. Anyway, although what Vince said may not be popular with the voters or party at large he did make an important point. We did not support the moves that Mr Cameron is putting forward a year ago and the party's official party line has not changed and more importantly we have outlined a key difference. He also was right to point out that this is not in the Coailition agreement. Vince was also right to point out that Cameron was talking as a Conservative leader to Conservative party members and as Laura Kuenssburg said Vince is a senior Liberal Democrat talking to Liberal Democrat voters and party members. I do not believe this is a serious matter for the coalition but one of the many problems that they intend to blitz, a former Labour failing that require addressing ASAP, even if it is a "good news" story to detract from the cock-ups that formed the NHS reform and the budget cuts. So what ever you think of Doctor Vince and his past record he has done us a favour and will give Nick something to "Disagree about in those bloody leadership debates."

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Clegg and the Interns.

This story probably sounds more interesting than it actually is. In tonight's "Evening Standard." a story was run about Nick Clegg's stance on social mobility and the new governmental move to cut out Interns getting their positions through family connections. This move is a great move for social mobility.
"For too long internships have been the almost exclusive preserve of the well connected. Unfair, informal internships can rig the market in favour of those who already have opportunities. We want a fair job market based on merit, not networks. It should be about what you know, not who you know. A country that is socially mobile bases opportunity on your ability and drive, not on who your father's friends are."

I don't think I need to explain the policy any further than that. There has always been a certain amount of nepotism and networking especially amongst old school alumni and close families which could and invariable does mean that someone who would be better suited to a opportunity and a much needed spring board into a career would be passed over in favour of the Chairman's old school friends inept son. This is a big stride forward and is a positive move.

Should the media focus on this as a great achievement and a positive policy for the beleaguered Deputy Prime minister?


Instead the Standard ran the horrifying news that when Nick was a young adult his father, Nicholas who was chairman of united trusts bank, helped him secure a post between his £10,000 a term Westminster school and Cambridge. Well stop the presses!!!!

So he comes from a rich background. Well no one chooses their family or background, after all the whole idea of Social Mobility is that, no matter your background your path is for you to chose. Birth is not a right to privilege. Could Mr Clegg not be trying to rectify the injustices of a system that he benefited from having
realised how corrupt is later? Who is to say that he didn't resent his father's interference in his life and wanted to get the positions on his own merit? After all the Standard then goes on to reveal that his other two internships at "Nation Magazine" and "GE24" were both attained through the going through the interview process and competing with everyone else.  His first job, working for former European Commissioner Lord Brittan was also on a recommendation by Lord Carrington a former foreign secretary but the Standard does not go into details as to what the basis of the recommendation was. Carrington could have worked with Clegg or observed his work at "GE24" and been impressed or he could have been a close family friend. It isn't clear and would be unfair to say.

What is unfair is that the media, spurned on by the comments of John Mann MP in DPMQ's is the accusation of "Hypocrisy." This is a good policy, one that will benefit people's lives and careers and we are looking at the negative side of a man's past, something that he has forsaken to make a difference for people. It would have been easy for him to become a Conservative or a chairman in a company but no, he chose the role of a LibDem and is, in his own round about way, trying to help make Britain fairer. The accusations would be fairer if he was using his name and networks to get his sons jobs but as that hasn't happened, yet, it's not an issue in my opinion. It would be the same as, when I was a youth I did not fasten my seat belt in the car on a few occasions, courting death and injury but I will certainly be telling Sophie to do her seat belt up and making sure it is done. Does this make me a hypocrite to?